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Shorgul lands in trouble, release date changed for the third time

Producers forced to shift release date again after some exhibitors in Uttar Pradesh refuse to screen the controversial film.

Mayur Lookhar

It's turning out to be a game of musical chairs for the makers of Shorgul when it comes to the release of their film. First, they battled with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to get the film (which was slated to release on 24 June) cleared. Then they advanced the release date by a week to 17 June, assuming that Udta Punjab would struggle to get clearance.

That did not happen and Udta Punjab released as per schedule. So, Shorgul was pushed back to 24 June. Now, the political thriller has been delayed further and will release on 1 July after certain theatres in Uttar Pradesh reportedly refused to screen the film fearing violence.

“We have been forced to postpone the release of our film to the 1st of July," co-producer Swatantra Vijay Singh said in a statement. "There is a sense of apprehension in the exhibition sector pertaining to the showcasing of the film and a lot of cinema managers have expressed their reservations."

The producers said some theatre chains have maintained that they will not show the film. "As first-time producers we find ourselves in a handicapped position with minimal support being garnered from the relevant stakeholders," he said. "Our film is a creative piece of expression inspired by humanity. It has a strong message for the common man and we hope to receive unrelenting support from the masses to ensure a smooth release on the proposed new date."

Set in Uttar Pradesh, the film is said to be loosely based on the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riot. Besides, references to the post-Godhra riots of 2002 and cow slaughter were objected to by the CBFC. In one scene, actor Narendra Jha’s character is seen giving a hate speech similar to the one given by Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Akbaruddin Owaisi in Adilabad in 2012.

Given its controversial subject, the film was banned in Muzaffarnagar and cities like Ghaziabad, Kanpur, and Lucknow. Now fearing violence, some exhibitors in the state are said to be in two minds about screening it.

Meanwhile, there is another headache for the makers of Shorgul with lead actor Jimmy Shergill receiving a fatwa.

The fatwa has been issued by the Khamman Peer Baba Committee to Shergill and the makers. "The fatwa states that a seasoned actor like Jimmy has hurt the sentiments of the Muslim community by enacting scenes that will cause unrest in the community through the dialogues and scene depictions,” the makers said in a statement.

Unlike Udta Punjab, which received massive support from the film fraternity, Shorgul's makers have largely fought a lonely battle. Swatantra Vijay Singh and his team have reportedly approached Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav to get their film cleared.